Category Archives: Leadership

Judicial activism on Zuma has limits

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

In ruling on 29 December that the South African parliament failed to hold Jacob Zuma, the president of the Republic, accountable as they should, the Consititutional Court ruled in the majority. But surprise, surprise, there was a minority view. And from who? Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. He highlighted the need for seperation of powers and the risk of judicial overreach if events continue as they are. Quoting the judgement: “the Chief Justice characterises the majority judgement as a textbook case of judicial overreach – a constitutionally impermissible intrusion by the judiciary into the exclusive domain of Parliament.” Almost everything now is brought before the courts. Mr Zuma disagrees on something? The aggrieved goes to court. Ultranationalist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposition party does not get its way in parliament? It goes to court. Bit by bit, if care is not taken, the authority of the court may become increasingly eroded. Furthermore, its risks performing the functions of the other arms of government more and more. That would be an anomaly and an injury to the South African polity. Because thereafter, who puts the judiciary in check? Unsurprisingly, when one news agency made it seem like the minority view was the majority one, EFF leader Julius Malema immediately put it to check; evidence of the passions involved. One Twitter follower reacted quite impassionately as well. He made the point that the Justice Mogoeng’s judgement was inconsequential and that he did not think it was an overreach on the part of the Constitutional Court to remind parliament that it failed in its oversight functions or that it had been operating without specific provisions for the removal of a president; a democratic foundation, he adds. In reaction, I made the point that the consequence was not going to be immediate or germane for the purpose of the suit filed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), United Democratic Movement (UDM) and Congress of the People (COPE) (and later joined by the official Democratic Alliance (DA) opposition party) against parliament speaker, Baleka Mbete, and Mr Zuma at the Constitutional Court. I thought the Chief Justice was right asserting how we should not allow the expediency of the moment overshadow the need to ensure the seperation of powers and the protection of the sanctity of the judiciary itself. My friend, who as it happens is actually Nigerian (I though he was South African until I enquired and found out he was an old friend), stuck to his guns. He was emphatic that the court was right in censuring the legislature for a major operational and legislative lacuna (his words) that could lead to a one party state at the minimum and a dictatorship at the worst. “It was right in prodding parliament to do right.” I agree.

Not enough
But what exactly did the court rule on? The foundation was the earlier Nkandla judgement of the Constitutional Court and Mr Zuma’s failure to implement remedial actions for some time after anti-corruption ombudsman, the “Public Protector”, released her report on it – relates to the use of public money to fund what Mr Zuma deemed security upgrades to his homestead in Nkandla, his birthplace. The Court agreed with the ombudsman that the upgrades constituted more than just repairs to enhance the security of the president. The application by the EFF and others was that the parliament failed to ensure measures and processes in place to ensure Mr Zuma (or any public official for that matter), would not be able to manipulate the system like he did; especially as in addition to the Public Protector’s remedial action, the court also ruled punitively on the matter. As a way of forcing the parliament to institute a process, the EFF and others wanted the court to order it to convene a committee to determine whether Mr Zuma, by his conduct on Nkandla on the one hand and his actions after the court’s earlier ruling on the other, was guilty of any impeachable conduct under section 89 of the Constitution. Problem was that parliament had no process in place to ensure section 89 of the Constitution would be abided by properly and clearly in the event. The legislature’s argument, via its acting speaker at the time of the application, was that the hallowed chambers’ current rules suffice to deal with the section 89 process. The Court disagreed. And it was scathing in its rebuttal. Quoting the judgement: “The Court found no rules were in place governing the section 89 process and that the Assembly was bound by the Constitution to do so.” In a nutshell, all that the National Assembly did, from the motions of no-confidence to the various Question and Answer (Q & A) sessions, were not sufficient for the section 89 requirements. There is a vagueness on how and what constitutes grounds for removing the president.

Act, act, act
So what should parliament now do? It should start by addressing the primary concern raised by the court. It ordered amongst other things that the Assembly should “make such rules regulating the section 89 (1) procedure within 120 days from the date of the order…[and] initiate a process under section 89 (1) in terms of the newly developed rules, within 180 days from the date of [the] order.” On the specific case of Mr Zuma, it remains very doubtful that he would ever leave office via an act of parliament. If Mr Zuma ever leaves office before the expiration of his term in 2019, it would likely either be by resignation or a recall by his party. Or the other thing that must become all our lots at some point; whether we like it or not.

South Africa: Zuma goes legacy shopping

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

After much anticipation, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party’s leadership race started during the weekend (15-20 December). It got off to a slow start. Ahead of the elective conference, I sought the views of fellow Africa economists for an article for African Business magazine on what the implications for the South African economy could be depending on who emerges victorious. (See link viz. http://africanbusinessmagazine.com/region/southern-africa/south-africa-markets-weigh-ancs-next-leader/). I also published my preliminary personal views. (See link viz. https://macroafricaintel.com/2017/12/15/macroafricaintel-south-africa-a-race-of-three/). Although deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was leading with nominations and expected to win, the race still had an element of uncertainty. There were a few twists and turns, for sure. The national executive committee (NEC) decided in an emergency meeting before the start of the conference – which was actually the reason for the lengthy delay in the first place – that nullified structures of the Kwazulu-Natal and Free State provinces by the courts would not vote, for instance. Incidentally, these were the strongholds of one of the leading presidential contenders, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife to outgoing party president, Jacob Zuma; who incidentally gave his own shocker just before the start of proceedings. He announced a free education policy; much to the dismay of market participants. It did reveal one thing, though. President Zuma does not want all that is remembered about his presidency to be the scandals that plagued it. He wants a good legacy. This late in the game, you probably wonder. I actually did think Mr Zuma would do something desperate to secure his postion in the aftermath of the conference. But considering the negative reaction of market participants to finance minister Malusi Gigaba’s mid-term budget and the sharp reaction of the rand to rumours before the conference that Mr Zuma might announce a free education policy and his denial afterwards, whatever potential outrageous move Mr Zuma was going to make, I did not think free education would be it. That said, it was the perfect populist move. Free education is such a popular issue with the masses that no matter the wrongs Mr Zuma may have committed, they could be overlooked on the back of it. That said, it is a negative for the fiscus and the authorities’ oft-touted fiscal consolidation drift. The move also raises fears that earlier denials about potentially negative policies like the declaration of a state of emergency might actually just be another ruse.

Worry about money later
Mr Gigaba, who was delivering a speech at a business breakfast event at the ANC conference when Mr Zuma announced his free education policy, says whatever is done would be done in a fiscally sustainable way. He left the details to the 2018 budget in February. Did he even know about it, though? Because it is highly unlikely he would have known about it without at least mentioning it during his speech. His remarks were made afterwards, when reporters accosted him on his way out of the breakfast venue. Besides, it made naught of the many right things he said in his speech. In any case, S&P Global Ratings’ decision in November to downgrade the country’s rating further into junk territory has clearly now been vindicated. And Moody’s? Well, if this does not move the rating agency, nothing else will. Free education is desirable. But a sustainable model is what is needed, not a populist, financially constraining and unsustainable move like the one Mr Zuma just made.

Factions for nothing and something
One key thing palpable from the conference proceedings are the deep divisions within the ANC. Most are just for mundane reasons. But some are ideological. Take the issue of land expropriation. The party’s youth wing wants it done without compensation. The older cadres reason some compensation would be appropriate. How the party should be structured is also an issue. It was proposed at the conference that there should be two deputy presidents, for instance. The argument proffered in support of this was that it would help unify the party. It was really Mr Zuma’s idea. He had earlier opined that the second position presidential candidate should automatically get a deputy presidency; a development that would have required having two slots available. The proposal did not enjoy majority support and was thus turned down. Take another example. The ANC women’s league’s official position was to support the leading female candidate for president; that is, Ms Dlamini-Zuma. Instead, outgoing party chairperson, Baleka Mbete, a woman and hitherto a presidential contender, chose to support the male frontrunner; Mr Ramaphosa. Her reasons made sense: Mr Ramaphasa was a better candidate to beat whoever the opposition might present for the 2019 elections. But you get the dynamics, at least. As I submit this column, no one could confidently say who would win. In fact, rumours surfaced South Africa might have its first female president this week.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/south-africa-zuma-goes-legacy-shopping/

Call me Mr President

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

On 12 December, a “president” would have been inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya. At least, that was the plan. But the president of where or what? Because just weeks before, one was sworn-in. His name is Uhuru Kenyatta. And he looks nothing like the one that could have taken another oath of “office” this week. I have been at my wits’ end trying to fathom what Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga was trying to achieve by committing what could on the face of it have been deemed a treasonable offence. Mr Odinga lost to President Kenyatta in the August elections which was annulled by the Supreme Court over irregularities. As he did not participate in the second one, which incidentally was validated by the court, it beggars belief on what legal basis his purported presidential inauguration would have stood upon. With some reflection and after reading commentaries here and there, I came around to an understanding of what he might have been trying to achieve. A man could call himself anything. If I wrote in this column that I am the “president” of this page, who is to query me? Some companies entitle their chief executive “president”, for instance. In Nigeria, the head of the Senate is what again? Mr. President. But is Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian Senate, the president of Nigeria? Surely not. So Mr Odinga might actually be on to something I thought. Since he is almost assured of the support of about half the Kenyan population, designating himself as “president” of some assemblage, a “peoples’ assembly”, say, might just do the trick of getting on the nerves of his rival in the presidential palace. In a nutshell, what Mr Odinga had planned today may actually have passed the test of legal scrutiny. At least, so I thought; until a press release by his party over the weekend postponing the swearing-in stated he would have been inaugurated as “President of the Republic of Kenya.” Say we ignore this about-face. Let us also assume he was not about to be foolhardy to the point of actually declaring himself the President of Kenya. With some creativity, he could actually get away with something close to the real deal.

Much ado about a title
Going around the country as the “president” of “something” that everyone knows represents about half of Kenya could actually be the perfect revenge from the scion of a family forever at odds (and always at the losing end it seems) with the Kenyattas. A good analogy can be found in China a long time ago. While Deng Xiaoping was the de facto leader of China in the late 1970s and for most of the 1980s, he was never officially head of state. At one point, the only title he had was that of honorary chairman of the China Bridge Association. Even then, he was able to wield tremendous power. Mr Deng proved the point that power is not so much about the title as it is about legitimacy. It seems to me Mr Odinga’s plan should be to hold on to the half of Kenya that he is now almost sure would pledge fealty to him if he asked. That way, as he and his party “resist” and ask for electoral reforms, they would be able to sustain the current momentum until the next elections. Mr Kenyatta and his men are not likely to sit idly by while he does this, though. Opposition strategist, David Ndii, was recently arrested by the authorities, likely in the hope that incriminating evidence would be found against him, Mr Odinga and the other principals of the National Super Alliance (NASA). As Mr Ndii recounts after his release on bail, they did not succeed.

Catch-22
Had the “president” been sworn-in today as planned, the president (which one now?) would have had little choice but to arrest and prosecute him for treason. Until the postponement was announced, I came to the resolution that perhaps Mr Odinga reckoned it would not be such a bad idea to be in the news in that manner. After all, he has been in prison before. In the event, attention would be drawn from whatever potential good Mr Kenyatta might be doing for the people towards the likely spectacle of a treason trial. He could still do some sort of oath-taking within the confines of the freedoms of association, expression and so on. But when the swearing-in eventually takes place, if ever, how should Mr Kenyatta respond? If he arrests and prosecutes Mr Odinga, the subsequent drama would be a tremendous distraction. If he does nothing, Mr Odinga would increasingly look presidential. Maybe it should end with the postponement.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays)

MainaGate: We must be fair

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

I have followed the “MainaGate” saga with great interest. (It refers to the furtive reinstatement into the public service of Abdul-Rasheed Maina, the former head of a presidential task force on pension reforms, who to the knowledge of the public had been declared wanted for myriad corruption allegations but was purportedly at large.) My views are mixed. After watching a 2-hour video recording of the investigative hearing by a committee of the lower house of the Nigerian legislature, what is clear to me is that Mr Maina has the sympathies of some people in the current government. He returned to a post at the interior ministry without any fear it seems. And the country’s chief spy, Lawal Daura, acknowledges action on a request on behalf of Mr Maina of a threat to his life. Mr Daura says since Mr Maina is a Nigerian and that they indeed found his fears to be credible, they had no choice but to take action. Nigerians likely find this interesting: You could not get past the gate of the premises of the spy agency if you were not “special”, talk less have the ears and heart of the agency’s chief. Besides, why would any agency help someone who everyone in the public domain thought to be a fugitive from justice? It could be that they are privy to a truth; but which would be injurious to the state if made public. Mr Daura also revealed without the slightest equivocation that Mr Maina is not on his agency’s watch list; hence why he has not been arrested. Furthermore, is it possible that Mr Maina would make incorrect claims about helping the authorities to recover assets in the knowledge that should these be found to be untrue, it would not help his already unfortunate circumstances? There are just too many questions. And many remain unanswered.

Passing the buck
My primary concern is really just about fairness. I am usually very wary when a narrative dominates the airwaves to the point that people become reluctant to espouse anything different. And in my experience, narratives with such prominence tend to contain some untruths. In time, the real state of affairs tends to unfold; but by then, it is usually not that useful for the victims of the earlier falsehood. But in this case, the lives of a man and his family are at stake. And the matter has been so publicised to the point that anything short of a proper resolution would be a great injustice. And the potential victims are not just Mr Maina and his relatives. A senior civil servant has accepted full responsibility for Mr Maina’s supposedly illegal reinstatement. I doubt very much he is as culpable as he claims. But there is a culture amongst the people from the part of the country he comes from about keeping to pacts and acting courageously. So should push come to shove, those he is likely protecting can sleep quite restfully in the knowledge that he would not change his tune later. To be clear, I am not taking sides here. But if murderers can be allowed the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, a purportedly corrupt former public servant can surely be allowed some accommodation.

Truth at all times
I think President Muhammadu Buhari was likely privy to at least some elements of the events that led to Mr Maina’s now supposed illegal reinstatement and promotion. When he became aware is the part one cannot objectively infer. To be fair, the president is procedurally apprised of only high-level details of issues. It is only when he prompts further that he is made aware of more. And even when a president does this, the details are still watered down. It is not the practice, however, for any president to probe too much; at least, not if his principal staffer, the chief of staff, Abba Kyari or any person in the position, has his full confidence. But when Mr Maina started gracing the full cover of newspapers, it would certainly have been impossible for Mr Buhari, who is well-known for his love of the papers, not to have become fully aware of the controversy and the injury it was causing his administration. Predictably, he directed that Mr Maina be immediately disengaged from the civil service and asked for a full report on the great matter. That said, Mr Maina’s issue has become so controversial that even when he receives the fairest hearing, it would be unwise to allow him back into the civil service. Besides, the matter could be left to the court which Mr Maina’s lawyers claim ordered his reinstatement in the first place; albeit he would probably be better off collecting his emoluments and retiring into a quiet life should he emerge victorious. Even so, some pragmatism could be applied to make the matter a win-win for all concerned. If his claim that he could help the authorities recover about three trillion naira in stolen public funds and assets – more than a third of planned public spending next year – is found to be credible, for instance, it should be pursued in exchange for some plea bargain deal (if applicable). But there is a broader issue about how public pension funds have been perennially misappropriated by public officials; ironically, the raison d’etre of Mr Maina’s task force. My advocacy is to Mr Buhari and not his underlings. No matter how villainous Mr Maina may have become and the potential costs to his government if he chooses to be fair, Mr Buhari must stick to the path of truth. Mr Maina should be given fair hearing, full protection by the security services whilst this lasts, and the judgements and resolutions by competent bodies on the matter should be implemented to the letter.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/mainagate-must-fair/

Europe could do more for Africa

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

It is a little annoying that this year’s African Union (AU) – European Union (EU) summit (29-30 November), the fifth now, has been overshadowed by recent revelations by CNN – an American news organisation much reviled by President Donald Trump – of black Africans being enslaved in Libya on their way to Europe illegally. Europe’s concerns about increasing illegal migration from African countries, often at great peril – for those who choose to make the journey, that is – would ordinarily have been the focal point at the summit regardless. European governments have committed to helping with evacuating the victims and prosecuting the culprits. Of course, it is not unlikely that the most secret bit of their ruminations wonders if the ugly phenomenon may not finally be the deterrent they so desperately seek to stop the rising illegal immigration rate of Africans to Europe. European governments have been at their wits’ end trying to stop the uncontrollable flow hitherto. Of course, the bad press that comes with many that die on the journey across the sea is not necessarily helpful. And it speaks to the motivation of the travellers if despite the dangers of the journey, more continue to embark on it. Even so, EU countries have become more stringent, as their citizens increasingly worry about losing jobs to migrants who do not mind lower pay; albeit their eyes are typically set on better skilled fellow Europeans. Upon arrival on the shores of Europe, often that of Italy, and after being rescued, the few that “made it” amongst the multitude at the beginning of the perilous journey back home, are sent to camps where they would sometimes stay for months or years. In the past, they could transition from these camps to what they eventually find to be a less than ideal “dream life” in Europe. Lately, sterner restrictions have increasingly made even this less likely: more are repartriated home these days. But these are the lucky ones. They are alive and have a chance to rebuild their lives. That said, the proportion of Africans that make this dangerous journeys pale in comparison to the many, youths mostly, who stay behind and try to make a meaning of their lives. Themed “Investing in the youth for a sustainable future”, it is this latter group that the 5th AU-EU Summit in Abidjan focuses on.

Faith and works
So at least, European governments know what the problem is. 60 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion population is aged below 25 years. That is 761 million people. One estimate put the number of young Africans entering the labour market annually at about 10 million. Of these, only about 30 percent secure wage employment. The other 70 percent? We know some seek greener pastures abroad, for sure; and clearly in not so salubrious ways for most. Crucially, the majority are idle, thus posing a security risk not only to their countries, the African continent, but abroad as well. Trying to resolve the problem is at the core of the joint Africa-EU strategy. The advocacy here is that what has been done thus far, laudable though they are, could be much more. The European Union is quick to tout its 7-year €30 billion official development aid to 2020, for instance. It is a drop in the ocean. Compare with this: Africa needs at least $90 billion annually over at least a decade to plug its infrastructure deficit alone. There is a consensus, at least, that aid is not the solution. Better trade, could be, though. In this regard, the EU could be more forthcoming. Its Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with African countries are controversial. Some African countries have reservations about them; Nigeria for instance. And there are quite a few amongst the ones that signed them which did so grudgingly. One issue is usually about the potential loss of revenue that African governments would suffer from allowing reciprocal tariff-free European access to African markets. To be fair, there has been some accommodation by the EU to compensate for this. The problem is that it pales in comparison to the potential loss. The great matter is how the EPAs in their current form might stymie Africa’s industrialization. Of course, it could be argued that automation and the so-called fourth industrial revolution are greater and more imminent threats. Even so, Europe should back its good faith with more action.

Flattered Trump achieves little in Asia

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Donald Trump, the American president, concludes his 5-country Asian trip in The Philippines today (14 November). Heralding his arrival in Beijing a week earlier – his third stop after earlier ones in Japan and South Korea – was a reminder of China’s trade surplus with America, data for which came out at US$26.6 billion for October; about US$223 billion thus far this year. And if he thought his trip would make China buy at least as much American goods and services as go the other way, he was a tad disappointed. Of course, there was much pomp about the US$253.4 billion in deals signed between the two delegations. But much of these were not substantive. And some were actually just old deals. The extent of the divergence in the views of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, and President Trump, would become writ large in Da Nang, Vietnam, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, where they both headed afterwards. They provided sharply contrasting visions on trade in their speeches to the gathering of Asian-Pacific leaders. While President Xi espoused multilateralism, openness, and globalisation, Mr Trump was unapologetically insular in his views. Brief incidental interactions with Russian president, Vladimir Putin, at the APEC summit, in place of a much anticipated formal meeting, did not yield much either. Because even though the Kremlin published a joint statement on the crisis in Syria, there was not much there that was new; a missed opportunity. It did not help of course that the controversy over alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 American presidential elections would not just go away; no doubt made worse by Mr Trump’s equivocation on the matter. In fact, what little progress that was made during his time in Asia was actually on matters antithetical to his agenda. A deal was reached by the 11 countries remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement he ditched, for instance; albeit there were a few hiccups here and there before that came about.

Playground rhetoric
Mr Trump came out a little bruised on the North Korean matter as well. After initially striking a somewhat conciliatory tone towards the communist regime, urging it to do a deal over its nuclear weapons programme, he adopted an aggressive posture shortly afterwards in his address to the South Korean legislature; defiantly telling the volatile man up north not to test America’s might. Unsurprisingly, the North Korean regime replied with insults, calling Mr Trump an ‘old lunatic’, ‘warmonger’ and ‘dotard.’ Not one to take such expletives lying down, the American president threw back a few of his own, suggestively referring to Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, as ‘short’ and ‘fat’. Even so, if there is a slight chance of some deal with the communist regime, Mr Trump’s unusual style probably makes him best-placed to make it happen. China remains crucial to any potential progress, however. Unfortunately, they did not offer more than they already had on the matter.

Flatter to naught
The Japanese were more gracious at least; they imposed additional unilateral sanctions on North Korea. Not that this could necessarily be attributed to Mr Trump’s powers of persuasion: North Korea fired missiles over Japan in mid-September. And this was despite Mr Trump’s taunts at prime minister Shinzo Abe: He went on unabashedly about how the Japanese were inferior to Americans and wondered aloud why the Japanese did not shoot down the North Korean missile, suggesting how if they had American-made weapons, they would have been able to do so easily. (The Japanese are officially pacifist but have a military for self-defense purposes.) Little wonder then his Japanese trip turned out to be a failure somewhat. He did not get much from them on trade; a major issue for him. (Like China, Japan also maintains trade surpluses with America; albeit at 9 percent of the total American trade deficit, it pales in comparison to China’s 47 percent.) As if to buttress the point, the Japanese ruled out a potential Free Trade agreement (FTA) with the Americans, Mr Trump’s preferred route to dealing with trade imbalances. Instead, Japan led the effort to ensure a deal was reached on the so-called TPP-11. The Asians were all smiles but gave him little.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. http://www.businessdayonline.com/flattered-trump-achieves-little-asia/

Buhari needs not change to win a second term

By Rafiq Raji, PhD

Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian president, recently proved the point that all politicians are the same. And that power is “sweet”, as we say in local parlance. Just this week, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party held its third national executive committee (NEC) meeting since coming to office. (The penultimate one was held in March 2016.) President Buhari used to occasion to announce plans to rejig his cabinet, appoint more ministers, and make long-awaited ‘juicy’ appointments to the boards of parastatals and agencies. Having resisted overtures to do these hitherto, there is only one conclusion that can be inferred: Mr Buhari has decided to run for a second term. Just so no one is left in any doubt about this, some one proposed the adoption of Mr Buhari for a second term at the NEC meeting. In what was likely a well-choreographed move, the chair stood down the proposal for a later time. But the point had been made. Newspaper headlines afterwards were confusing, though. Some suggested state governors from the ruling party endorsed the president for a second term. Others said they opposed it. The former is more likely, in my view.

Still in charge
It has always been the practice to use patronage to appease influential party members in view of elections. This is not meant in a negative sense. People join political parties in the hope that when they win, they would be able to serve (or have influence) in government. Savvier politicians do what Mr Buhari is about to do belatedly, much, much earlier; when their intentions would not be so writ large. It may also have dawned on Mr Buhari, that no matter how powerful a president is, he still has to abide by party processes and rules. At least, he has to appear to. If you wonder about this, just ask former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. His deputy, Atiku Abubakar, demonstrated how with careful and deft scheming, a sitting president can literally be brought to his knees when such things are treated with levity. Ordinarily, a second 4-year term for Mr Buhari would not be up for question. But considering he spent a great deal of time trying to recover from undisclosed illnesses, it was assumed he would not contest. Lately, however, Mr Buhari has been brimming with confidence, on account of better health clearly. He is not likely totally out of the woods yet; still works from home, for instance, even though this is attributed to ongoing renovations at his supposedly rat-infested office. Even so, is Mr Buhari healthy enough for a second term? Since his medical history remains secret, he is the only one that can answer that question. Relatively younger presidential hopefuls from the north within the APC who were already gearing up to fill his shoes are perhaps now not so happy, though; albeit they are likely to support him without question if he decides to run again. One who may not be so obedient, that is, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, did not show up for the NEC meeting.

Opportune win
Lucky man that he is; the World Bank released its Ease of Doing Business rankings on the day of the NEC meeting. Nigeria moved up 24 places to 145thout of 190 countries. But like Bloomberg aptly put it: it is still tough to do business in Nigeria. Trust the president and his team to make as much hay from it regardless. Information minister Lai Mohammed was in his best form, taking interviews with local and foreign media so that no one forgets how the efforts of the administration led to the feat. Well, on this one, they got it right. And the vindication came from a source outside of their influence. Bear in mind, it is not often that a government, especially a Nigerian one, sets out to do something and records a verifiable quick win in such record time. Mr Buhari set up the so-called Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) under the headship of his diligent deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, just over a year ago. Incidentally, the recent validation of the administration’s efforts came not long after a second 60-day national action plan (NAP 2.0) to December was launched. But it is not uhuru yet; far from it. Clever man that he is; Mr Buhari acknowledged the myriad challenges that continue to exist. Still, it was an excellent way to make the point that his administration was working, and without having to say it out loud; he would be deserving of a second term.

At what cost
I like Mr Buhari for one major reason: he is as honest as a politican can be allowed to be in this country. He rightly reasoned there should not be as many ministers and political appointees as was the case in previous administrations. And even though the constitution insists there should be at least one minister from the 36 states of the federation, it is wasteful and unnecessary to appoint that much. Mr Buhari can still win without giving up his soul.

Also published in my Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/11/02/buhari-needs-not-change-to-win-a-second-term-by-rafiq-raji/